Sunday Thoughts for December 9

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday (December 9) is the Second Sunday of Advent. We will be using the first setting of the Divine Service for our liturgy. Because it is Advent, the hymn of praise will be omited (along with the use of the word “alleluia”). The hymn of praise will be replaced by our seasonal choir singing “Will You Be Ready?” This will be a service of the word and the liturgy will have the typical modifications to reflect this. This produces a service in the spirit of page 5 from The Lutheran Hymnal. In this service we use the Psalm of the Day instead of the Introit. If you want to know more about this sort of thing, you can go to the “Worship with the Saints” page on this blog.

Our opening hymn will be “Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord” (LSB 352). Our sermon hymn will be “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry” (LSB 344). Our closing hymn will be “What Hope! An Eden Prophesied” (LSB 342). All tunes are known by the congregation. The appointed lessons for Sunday are: Malachi 3:1–7b; Psalm 66:1-12 (antiphon v. 12b); Philippians 1:2–11; and Luke 3:1–20. The text for the message is Luke 3:3. The sermon is titled “Repent!”

What follows are the readings with some initial thoughts.

Malachi 3:1–7b
3:1 Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them.

Initial thoughts: God is speaking. The “messenger” is John the Baptist, as seen in our Gospel lesson. As God is speaking and John is described as God’s messenger that goes “before me,” that is, God, and John goes before Jesus announcing his advent, Jesus is God. John the Baptist presents us with what the scholars call “step-parallelism.” John has a miraculous birth. Jesus also has a miraculous birth, only the birth of Jesus is a greater miracle. John preaches and baptizes. Jesus preaches, performs miracles, and baptizes (through his disciples). We see, in this reading, another one of those step-parallelisms. John is called “my messenger.” Jesus is called “the Messenger of the Covenant.” The Covenant is that which is established by Jesus through his atoning death. It is this covenant the Old Testament covenant with Israel finally finds its fullest meaning. The text calls for repentance, which will be drawn out in Sunday’s sermon. I find it unusual that the reading ends half-way through verse 7. It leaves us with an unrepentant Israel and little hope. If we simply finished the verse, we would find the offer of grace and, if this was going to be the foundation for the sermon, I certainly would include the rest of verse 7.

Psalm 66:1-12 (antiphon v. 12b)
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
4 All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.”

5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There did we rejoice in him,
7 who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let not the rebellious exalt themselves.

8 Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

Glory be …

Initial thoughts: The first thing that jumps out to me today is the universal nature of this Psalm. It is a call for “all people,” not just Israel, to bless God. This “blessing” of God is not us doing him favors, but praising him for all the wonderful things he has done. This brings out another thought in the Psalm; God is god of all creation. This is true in good times and during difficult times. Of course, the greatest “awesome deed” accomplished by God is our salvation which he grants us freely though faith in Jesus. Believing in Jesus, the Second Person of the Triune God, is the best way that we can “bless” God. There are overtones of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. This deliverance was to help Israel look forward to the greatest deliverance that was yet to come, and it is to remind us of that deliverance: the deliverance from sin, death and the power of the devil achieved by Jesus.

Philippians 1:2–11
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Initial thoughts: This is clearly a passage full of joy, in spite of the fact that Paul is in prison when he writes is. That reminds us of the difficult times spoken of in our Psalm when we still bless the Lord. What is bringing Paul joy is important, the “partnership” in the Gospel he shares with the Philippians. Paul also points the Philippians forward to the Second Coming of Jesus, an appropriate Advent theme. Joy and hope are often associated with Advent, along with repentance. This joy and hope, though, have nothing to do with presents under a Christmas tree.

Luke 3:1–20
3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,1
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

Initial Thoughts: The opening two verses begin with a list of people and events. This is how the date was established in those days and the world hand no commonly agreed upon calendar. Of particular interest to us is that Luke doesn’t begin with the words “once upon a time.” The events he records are real events that happened in real time. That he gives so much attention to the beginning of John’s ministry indicates that Luke considers it the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The message of John is the same as the message of Jesus (compare Luke 3:3 with Matthew 4:17). (Remember all that step parallelism found in the OT lesson.) John fulfills the prophecies of the forerunner and marks the public beginning of the End Times. Notice how John responds to the soldiers and tax collectors. Basically he tells them to do their job honestly and to not use their position to take advantage of others. So Christians are called to live their lives to this very day. If you are an employer, give your employees a fair wage. If you are an employee, give your employer a fare day’s effort. The cultures drumbeat to look out for yourself first is not the Christian lifestyle. That isn’t to say you don’t look out for yourself, just that you are not number one. If you have to choose between helping people who have faced some disaster and buying a luxury yacht, the Christian response is to help. However, if you can do both, then great. Who knows, maybe you can use that yacht to bring relief supplies somewhere in the world. The Herod we find in this story is the same Herod who features in the Good Friday story, but not the Herod of the Christmas story.

Well, hopefully this will help you as we prepare for our worship hour this coming Sunday.

Advent blessings,